108th Motor Rifle Division

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108th Motor Rifle Division
Founded August 14, 1941
Country  Soviet Union
Branch Red Army
Type Motorized Rifle Division
Colors Red
Engagements World War II
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Tajikistan Civil War
Battle honours Order of the Red Banner pennant "For courage and military valor"
Disbanded December 1993

The 108th Nevelskaya Motor Rifle Division, abbreviated as the "108th MRD," was a unit of the Soviet Ground Forces. It was the successor to the 360th Rifle Division Nevelskaya, which was formed during the Second World War. The division was created on August 14, 1941 by the State Defence Committee and the Volga Military District Commander, Vasilii Gerasimenko. The division was formed at the Volga Military District in Chkalov (now Orenburg).[1]

1941-1945[edit]

On December 1, 1941, the 108th MRD division became part of 60th Army.[2] It launched an offensive on the city Velizh on January 29, 1942.

In the battle for Great Luke, which lasted from December 24, 1942 to January 14, 1943, units of the division destroyed 23 guns, 72 machine guns, 5 mortars, 30 vehicles, 81 tanks, 4 aircraft, and 7,000 enemy soldiers—securing a USSR victory. On April 1, 1942, the division was incorporated into the 4th Shock Army, Kalinin Front.[3] Until August 1943, the division operated with both the 3rd and 4th Shock Armies. On December 1, 1944, the division was part of 83rd Rifle Corps, 4th Shock Army, 1st Baltic Front.

It fought at Nevel, Belorussia and Kurland with the 1st Shock Army of the Kurland Group (Leningrad Front) in May 1945.

From then until October 1945 the division was posted on the Leningrad Front and the Baltic Military District. In October, the division was relocated by railway to the Turkestan Military District in the city of Termez. Arriving there at the start of November 1945, the whole division was housed in military camps for combat and political training until the end of the year. In November and December, new units were created.[vague]

During World War II, the division fought over 850 kilometers, with redeployment and maneuvers to march the length of 2,500 km, freed more than 2,500 settlements, killed over 50,000 Nazi soldiers and officers, destroyed 100 tanks, 200 guns, and 650 machine guns; captured over 11, 000 soldiers and officers, 200 tanks, 250 guns, 800 machine guns and various other weapons.

1946-1979[edit]

Between World War II and late 1979 the division provided security for the Soviet Union along its southern borders.

Combat History of the Division in Afghanistan[edit]

In December 1979, during the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, the division was part of the invasion force into Afghanistan. On December 13, 1979, the whole division was brought to full combat preparedness after years of partial disbandment. On December 24, the Minister of Defense signed a directive for the entry of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The 781st Independent Reconnaissance Battalion became the first unit of the Soviet Army to cross into Afghanistan. At the same time, military transport planes carrying the 103rd Guards Airborne Division also crossed the border. On December 27, advance units of the 108th MRD entered Kabul to strengthen the protection of military administrative buildings. By mid-January 1980 the invasion of the 40th Army into Afghanistan was largely complete. The 108th MRD division headquarters was established at Khair Khana camp to the northwest of Kabul, on the road to Bagram airfield.[4]

From 1980 to 1989 the division carried out tasks to ensure the safety of convoys along the Doshi-Kabul and Kabul-Jalalabad routes, and the protection of key facilities (Bagram airfield, grain elevators, fuel and lubricant supply depots, a power station in Kabul, a dam and hydroelectric power station site in Surubi, etc.)

The division's operations in Afghanistan can be divided into four stages:

  • From December 1979 - February 1980 the division entered Afghanistan and established bases.
  • From March 1980 - April 1985 the division participated in active hostilities including large-scale operations, and worked to strengthen the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The division participated in the Panjsher VII offensive of April–May 1984, and the commander of the Afghan Bureau of the ISI at the time, Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf, says it was likely that Major-General Saratov, commander of the 108th MRD, commanded the operation.[5] During one battle, on April 30 in the Hazara Valley, the 1st Battalion of the 682nd Motor Rifle Regiment was decimated: the losses of Soviet troops were estimated at 60 KIA.[6]
  • From April 1985 to January 1987, the division transitioned from active operations to a role supporting Afghan troops using artillery and demolition units. The division assisted in the development of the armed forces of the DRA, and participated in the partial withdrawal of Soviet troops.
  • From January 1987 to February 1989, the division assisted the Afghan leadership in carrying out the policy of national reconciliation, and continued the support of Afghan forces.

The stages of the war in Afghanistan were not uniform and differed in terms of the intensity and types of military activities. Thus, the third and fourth stages were characterised by increased concentrations of rebel forces, and the creation of numerous military bases across Afghanistan with more active hostilities.

In terms of sheer personnel, the 108th MRD was the largest division in the Soviet Armed Forces during the invasion of Afghanistan. During this period. V.I. Feskov states the division had four motor rifle regiments, the 177th, 180th, and 181st with BTRs; and the 682nd with BMPs.[7] Among the other regiments of the division was the 1415th Anti-Aircraft Rocket Regiment (ru:1415-й зенитный ракетный полк). The division was the only one of its kind in the Armed Forces because of its structure and quantity of its weapons and other military equipment.

On February 11, 1989, the Division acted as rearguard for the 40th Army as it was withdrawn from Afghanistan. The division was then based in Termez.

References[edit]

  1. ^ tashv.nm.ru, Combat composition of the Soviet Army, September 1, 1941, accessed October 2011
  2. ^ tashv.nm.ru, BSSA December 1, 1941
  3. ^ tashv.nm.ru, BSSA April 1, 1942
  4. ^ Mohammed Yousaf and Mark Adkin, The Bear Trap: Afghanistan's Untold Story, 1992, 147-148.
  5. ^ Yousaf and Adkin 1992, 70-72
  6. ^ Knyazev, Nikolai. "Гибель 1-го батальона 682-го мотострелкового полка 30 апреля 1984 года, ущелье Хазара (Панджшер)(In Russian)". http://artofwar.ru/. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  7. ^ V.I. Feskov et al., 2004, 63.

Further reading[edit]

  • Feskov, V.I.; K.A. Kalashnikov, V.I. Golikov. (2004). The Soviet Army in the Years of the 'Cold War' (1945-1991). Tomsk: Tomsk University Press. ISBN 5-7511-1819-7.